June 20, 2012 at 9:18 AM ET
At least two heads turned when I received my Samsung Galaxy S III recently. How could they not when I loudly exclaimed — alright, practically squealed — that "it's here, it's here." Those same two heads shook, an hour later, as their owners watched me hurl obscenities at the gadget.
"You were supposed to be perfect! Why aren't you perfect, you stupid ..."
Don't get me wrong, I had high expectations for the Galaxy S III — and the smartphone met most of them. But what it failed to do is provide the perfection I craved, a reason to abandon my trusted iPhone 4S and finally switch to Android. It's just too rough around the edges (metaphorically speaking, of course, as its actual edges are flawlessly curved).
The Galaxy S III is easy on the eyes with its big, bright screen, smooth corners, and almost frighteningly slender body. It's powerful and speedy (for some benchmarks, check out Laptop Mag). It has a camera decent enough to make a basic point-and-shoot unnecessary. It's battery will get you through a day. And boy-oh-boy, many of Samsung's tweaks make Android look oh-so-appealing.
That's the big picture, of course. The details — the devil's always in those, isn't he? — are where the Samsung Galaxy S III struggles to amaze.
When the folks of Samsung first showed off the device, they pushed its "natural interaction" front and center. This was supposed to be a phone that can listen, watch and respond in ways never experience before. Unfortunately the features which should make all that happen are unpolished.
The Galaxy S III is supposed to recognize whether you are looking at it or not, and appropriately maintain comfortable screen brightness levels. Either my eyes somehow elude all detection or the phone was trying to tell me to take a break from staring at it — because it refused to keep the screen from dimming at times.
S Voice is a feature which is basically a counterpart to Apple's Siri. It is a personal assistant of sorts and supposed to recognize natural language. Unfortunately it's often unresponsive and prone to mangling commands, even if they are the simple ones provided as examples. (And don't even think about asking a Galaxy S III whether you'll need an umbrella in Tampa, Florida on Friday. Such a complex question, which is quickly answered by Siri, baffles the Samsung device.)
The Galaxy S III cleverly starts dialing a contact if you open his or her details then lift the phone to your ear. I quickly became enamored with this small but incredibly useful feature. Unfortunately it sometimes takes the device a moment or two to recognize that it's being held against my ear — and I could definitely have manually placed the call by that point.
Are you noticing the pattern? The Galaxy S III is a solid phone. It has all the basics covered well, but it disappoints when it comes to the features that should have pushed it over the top. It's a sleek rocket ship adorned with rusty bells and whistles.
So what's the verdict? Well, if you're an iPhone-obsessed individual like yours truly, stick with your beloved iOS device — because the Galaxy S III won't impress you as much as you'd want it to. But if you're already an Android smartphone user and looking for an upgrade? Jog, don't walk, to the nearest store. Just because I don't think the Galaxy S III tears away the label of "best smartphone on the market right now" away from the iPhone 4S doesn't mean that it's not the best Android device at the moment.
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